Life is an incredible teacher. We can enroll to learn, grow, and inspire others or we can turn our backs and stay small, weak and limited. For me, the choice is clear. The short time I've known him has been like a journey. I pay more attention, I listen more and my awareness outside of my "culture" has flourished. I've always been proud of my Native American and Irish heritage, and consider myself open to others, but I've never been in a position to truly embrace the world's diversity. I am fascinated by the stories he shares with me. He grew up in Africa, but lives in Minnesota. He is compassionate, kind, honest, courteous, hardworking, introspective, and truly inspiring. Humanity could prosper with people such as this, but I quickly learned we aren't all as excited to find these attributes in one another.
I invited him to a function I attend weekly with my friends, a place I am somewhat recognizable to some of the staff. Only this time, I was received much differently. I was unprepared. Normally, I walk in with no problems, other than to check the lens on my camera, because there are restrictions for a lens too big. This time, with my friend accompanying me and no camera to check, my purse was checked like usual, but then I was asked to empty it and show the contents. My pockets were checked in my coat, and my jeans. The woman actually touched my body to feel for contraband. The man who normally greets me with a smile and a wink, in a flirty way for an old guy, didn't smile, didn't light up, no twinkle in his eye, didn't act as though he knew me and didn't let me come through the door I had gone through some 30 or 40 time before in the last eleven months. Granted I was a little later than usual and with someone I wasn't normally with, but I still had the same ticket I present to him every time I'm there, yet he directed me to a different entry way, acted as though he'd never seen me, even after I explained who I was.
To my friend, this is common place. To me, I wanted to fight for what was right and just. Since ignorance and stupidity are not punishable, I'm using my words to educate people. They may not change a person's heart, but not to speak up would be the truest injustice. Life is the teacher, we are only a vessel upon which life's lessons infuse us. To treat someone differently because of their race, religion, gender, or disability makes the perpetrator less of the human being. Making another feel inferior for anything is only a reflection on the abuser's insecurities and weaknesses, not the person they try to demean.
This friendship has enlightened me, causing me to grow in an area I was so small before. Open your hearts to others, we all have difficulties, life doesn't disciminate that way. Pain, joy and love can be felt by everyone. I haven't walked a mile in his shoes, but I certainly have walked side by side with him, and I am so proud to call him my friend.